Fun without drugs?

Originally Published: April 12, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 26, 2008
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Dear Alice,

I think it would be a good idea for me to stop smoking marijuana and cut down on my drinking, at least during the school year. The problem is, I have been doing it for so long it is almost as though I have forgotten how to have fun without it. Contributing to this problem is the fact that many of my friends smoke or drink to have fun. Many of my other friends just do not seem to have fun at all; they stay in Friday and Saturday nights to do work. I've found it difficult to quit, I think because I'm just not sure of what's out there to do that's fun without being stoned or drunk. Can you recommend anything that's fun whether you're intoxicated or sober, so that I don't have to stop hanging out with certain friends if I want to relax and have fun? I know, it's NYC and there are a bazillion things to do, so why am I bored? Well, another factor is expense -- it costs around $20 to go to a nightclub, for example, and I don't really like "the scene." I want to finally enjoy life without relying on an altered state of consciousness. What's there to do when you're sick of renting movies? Also, any tips for resisting the urge to take people up on their offer to toke up? (I'm never pressured into it, but it's like the dieter who's offered some chocolate cake -- it's there, it looks sooo good, and the fact that other people are doing it makes it seem more "okay.") Thanks so much.

— Baked or Bored

Dear Baked or Bored,

It is exciting and refreshing to picture you at the beginning of your journey to fun and fulfillment without always tanking and toking up to reach this destination. You acknowledge at the outset that your trip (no pun intended) will be full of obstacles, challenges, temptations, and other potholes that might slow you down, or send you back to the starting line. Reducing any degree of psychological or physical dependence does not occur overnight, and can be realized through measured reductions in use of, in your case, alcohol and marijuana.

With your question, you have clearly begun to consult a map and ask for directions before your cast off. You don't have to stop here! Talking with a counselor at your school who can help you define specific goals, like how much you want to cut back, and at what pace, might also make for a smoother ride. Sharpening your awareness of your social, academic, professional, and spiritual interests can go a long way toward finding a few of those "bazillion" activities you mentioned. And make pit stops along the way, checking in with your counselor, or a supportive friend or relative, who can help you stay on course.

Tempting detours, like ever-present alcohol or that stray joint, might also be averted by some planning. Think about how you will respond if someone encourages you to have a drink or take a hit: maybe you could say, "Thanks, but I'm cutting back for a while," or "No, I have a big urine test tomorrow." Set limits for yourself (and state them to others, if appropriate) if you choose to place yourself in situations where alcohol and other drugs are present. Learning yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques have helped many on the same road to "dry fun" cope with stress resulting from this change in lifestyle, as well as provide motivation for improving mind-body health. Don't forget to consider physical activity in this category, too.

Look for groups whose activities match some of your non-drug interests. Maybe organizations that work toward a cause in which you strongly believe, athletic groups, political campaigns, reading circles, writing and theatrical clubs, or professional organizations will be the ticket. These groups are usually free and full of people who fall somewhere between "drug-reliant" and "bookworm." Staying on this trail, how about activities where drugs just wouldn't quite cut it?

  • Working out at the gym (also free at most universities)
  • Museum hopping (most are heavily discounted for students with IDs)
  • In-line skating or biking
  • Taking tours of different NYC neighborhoods
  • Or going up to the top of the Empire State Building (natural highs, anyone?).

Peruse Time Out New York magazine and the New York City section of bookstores for publications of cheap and free offerings. Last, but not least, keep your eyes open for flyers and posters on bulletin boards for similar samplings.  

If you are at a school or university, contact student activities for information about student organizations you can use as resources. At Columbia, the Student Development and Activities office lists all of the student organizations on campus. If none of this works, you may have a different problem from the one you have described. At Columbia, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at x4-2878 can help you out with counseling and support group needs. At other campuses, contact health services for similar resources.

Thanks for your question... and your perspective.

Alice

March 22, 2012

508985
It may be hard to get back to the real world. After I broke ties with my bad friends I found myself alone alot. Well I started hanging with good friends. Making more good friends. My social skills...
It may be hard to get back to the real world. After I broke ties with my bad friends I found myself alone alot. Well I started hanging with good friends. Making more good friends. My social skills actually got better because of this. Some people do drugs.alcohol as a scoail thing, however i find it very anti-social. You learn more social skills talking to people when youre sober. Anyways, getting involved in other interests is good. Help people, give people your time, do charity work, help friends/family/neighbours with chores, contacts, etc wotever. You will meet people, earn respect and people will appreciate it. Also develop your skills and abilities. Do things you've always wanted to do, sports, surf, skateboard, music, martial arts, extreme sports, paint ball, motorbiking.

March 7, 2008

21426

Hi Alice,

I would like to point out some great natural highs that lots of people love. Get extreme! Go skydiving or bungee jumping, or learn an exciting sport like snowboarding. That's the...

Hi Alice,

I would like to point out some great natural highs that lots of people love. Get extreme! Go skydiving or bungee jumping, or learn an exciting sport like snowboarding. That's the far end of the spectrum, but there's a couple other great ways to feel excited and exhilarated AWESOME even on a smaller scale (and budget). Get a season pass to the nearest theme or amusement park, and ride roller coasters and thrill rides! My mom's a roller coaster addict, and she wears it works better than her antidepressants even weeks after a theme park trip.

You said you were sick of renting movies, but go to the movie theatre, and watch comedies or scary movies for some laughs or thrills. Or best yet, pick up some kind of hobby that involves performing. Take a group voice class where you sing in front of people, or sing karaoke at the bowling alley, or get involved with live theatre or a dance performance class. The high after being on stage in front of an audience is unbeatable.

January 2, 2006

21009
Dear Alice,

RE: Fun without drugs?

Sounds like you're addicted, get some professional help. Also, the "$20 for a night club is too expensive excuse" is lame, since obviously you have to...

Dear Alice,

RE: Fun without drugs?

Sounds like you're addicted, get some professional help. Also, the "$20 for a night club is too expensive excuse" is lame, since obviously you have to BUY booze and drugs too right? Having fun doing anything is all a state of mind. If you believe you can't have fun without getting high, then you probably won't. Just stop depending on alcohol and narcotics, grow up, and start living your life with a clear head. Oh, and even though it'll be tough, if you really want to change your lifestyle for the better, you need to stay away from your alcoholic/druggy friends. It is too tempting for you to resist. Be proud of yourself, stay sober, you can do it!

September 24, 2004

20856
Dear Alice,

I would like to respond to the person who wrote in about Fun without drugs?:

I, myself, have encountered and am...

Dear Alice,

I would like to respond to the person who wrote in about Fun without drugs?:

I, myself, have encountered and am getting through this exact same problem. As a high-schooler, I smoked marijuana and drank liquor, as I grew older and entered the working world, many of my friends turned to harder drugs, and I, myself, did esctasy and went to raves, often with my friends.

When I was 25, I started to realize that the adage "fun = drugs or alcohol + whatever" was a sham, likely much like yourself. I wasn't really having fun, I was getting stoned, and as with all drugs, it gets boring after a while and you end up needing something stronger to make even the drug use more exciting. What's worse, as I started to notice this, I began noticing that all of my relationships were drug-centric (i.e., we would be talking about parties, experiences with alchohol or drugs, and they would be talking about future planned experiences with the same).

I was never a heavy drug user, drinking once to three times per week, smoking marijuana usually when drinking, and at my peak, I did ecstasy no more than about twice per month, usually half that.

I found that when backing away from the whole heavy drinking, partying, drugging thing, my friends would turn on me (i.e., "What? You aren't my friend anymore because I do drugs? Why don't you hang out with me anymore?") and it made me feel terrible, but I had to stick with the program because I had changed, they had not, and to continue being in the drug-centric environment just made me feel uncomfortable (I don't want to be a drag on these people's good time, but I don't want to hang out with a bunch of drunk and stoned people when I want to be straight, either.)

What worked for me was to find other loves in life and other ways to meet people and hang out in more mellow environments. Having dinner parties, going out at times other than late night (evening, afternoon), where people were less likely to indulge, and most of all, just setting new standards for who I hung around with.

My binge-drinking, pot-smoking, and ecstasy-popping friends weren't very happy with my decision, but I most certainly am. If they call, I offer to have them over for dinner; if they refuse, that's their problem. I still have a few drinks or smoke a joint once in a while, but my life now at 28 is where it should be. A few shades mellower.

September 21, 2001

20380

Hi Alice,

I just thought I'd speak out. This web site is awesome. But so many people are using drugs... and even though I've done my share... it makes me sick to see all these...

Hi Alice,

I just thought I'd speak out. This web site is awesome. But so many people are using drugs... and even though I've done my share... it makes me sick to see all these questions about drugs... I have done acid and pot, and, honestly, they didn't give me any new insight into life. If anything, they made me have severe anxiety attacks, and depression problems. I think I have learned more being sober, alert, and a loving, kind person than being an "X head" or "pothead." These people need to "get a grip on their life" and become real people on this earth, not in their own la-la lands...

Thanks, peace,
doll

January 21, 2000

20338
Dear Alice, I am responding to the reader who wrote in regarding Fun Without Drugs?. I'm sure there are many people out there who are dealing with this problem, as I have. I would like to share my...
Dear Alice, I am responding to the reader who wrote in regarding Fun Without Drugs?. I'm sure there are many people out there who are dealing with this problem, as I have. I would like to share my experience with this. About a year ago, I was basically ordered by my doctor to quit drinking, period. One reason is that I have to take a medication daily, and alcohol and drugs can have a terrible effect on the success of the medication. Also, we determined that I was abusing alcohol (I was not addicted or an alcoholic, but abusing it), and I needed to stop. So, I quit. On and off during the summer, I drank a few times (but never like before, when I drank and couldn't stop), but I paid for it later. Finally, after nine months or so, I quit altogether. I was extremely fearful of how I would face the peer pressure, because peer acceptance had been so important to me all my life. I had to examine myself and my future life and decide: was acceptance by strangers really that important to me? I realized that I have so much -- a beautiful son, a set of very good friends, a great job -- and peer pressure and acceptance didn't mean that much any more. So now, when I say, "No thanks" in a casual yet confident tone, I think about what an accomplishment it is that I have made, what a hurdle I have leaped. It is a high that I feel every single day, and it's free. And I feel that I've made a great choice for my health, which would have been in jeopardy, had I continued drinking. My friends, who all drink, have accepted it and are very cool with it. If anyone is pushy about it (and I know this is a cliché but it's true), I know I'm not interested in being friends with them. I've actually said to people, "Why is my *not drinking* such a problem for you?" It points out who really needs help and shuts 'em up.